A Guide to Unemployment Benefits in Florida

The state of Florida administers unemployment benefits for citizens administered by the Reemployment Assistance Program through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.  The name was recently changed from the Unemployment Compensation Program to better emphasize the job search and reemployment services offered by the agency. 

The Reemployment Assistance Program provides temporary and partial wage replacement for qualified workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own.  It also helps stabilize Florida’s economy for employers who depend on consumer spending.  It is funded by employers through payroll taxes and is provided at no cost to workers who receive benefits. 

How unemployment works in Florida

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Florida.

  1. Before you apply for benefits, you must meet three requirements.  These requirements include: being able, available and actively searching for work; that you lost your job through no fault of your own; and that you earned enough wages during your base period to qualify for payments. 
  2. Apply for unemployment insurance if you meet all the requirements.  To assure that you begin receiving benefits in a timely manner, you should start your claims process within one week after losing your job.  To file your claim you must login to the state’s CONNECT site for state unemployment benefits.    
  3. Determine the amount and duration of your benefit.   The maximum benefit anyone can earn is $275 per week.  Florida’s maximum time for collecting unemployment benefits is capped at 26 weeks. You must have earned a minimum of $3,400 in the base period of your Florida unemployment claim and your highest quarter wages cannot be more than 1.5x of the entire base period wages. To calculate the amount of your benefit, you can use this helpful Florida Unemployment Calculator.
  4. Know how and when you will be paid. Overall, it will take about three to four weeks for you to receive your first payment. You can receive benefits for anywhere between 12 and 23 weeks depending on Florida’s current unemployment rate.  Florida unemployment benefit recipients can receive benefits electronically through the use of a debit card or they can have benefits direct deposited into their bank account as well.
  5. Conduct an ongoing job search.   You must conduct an ongoing job search and you must document your efforts and report them to collect benefits.  You must also register with the Employ Florida Marketplace before claiming weeks of unemployment.  If you are offered a suitable job, but turn it down, you could lose your benefits. In addition, when you go back to work, you must report that information to the Reemployment Assistance Program immediately.
  6. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.   If you are denied unemployment benefits, Florida allows you to file an online appeal, by mail, or by fax. You will have 20 days to do so from the time you receive your determination notice. After receiving your appeal, the agency will schedule a telephone hearing and an appeals referee will rule on your case. A decision will then be mailed to you.

What are the requirements to qualify for FL unemployment benefits in Florida?

To be eligible to receive FL unemployment benefits you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be either partially or totally unemployed and lost your job through no fault of your own.  This means you were not fired for malicious misconduct or that you quit for personal reasons.
  • You must have earned the required minimum amount of wages during your base period.  Your base period is the first four quarters that have been completed beginning 18 months prior to you filing a claim.
  • You must be ready, willing, available and able to work.  You must also be actively seeking work and be able to document your efforts.

If you are not sure if you meet all of these requirements, or if you have general questions about unemployment benefits eligibility, you should contact one of the state’s One-Stop Career Centers.  A complete list of One-Stop Career Center locations can be found here.

When will I get paid?  How long does it take to get unemployment in Florida?

Florida unemployment eligibility and payments depend on when you have become out of work, and when you file your claim.  If you quit your job, you are not automatically denied state of Florida unemployment benefits.  But you must show good cause for why you did quit, such as harassment or job conflicts.

  • If you were discharged from your job, you could be denied benefits if it was due to the failure of a drug test, you stole or damaged your employer’s property, or your job performance was substandard.
  • If you receive severance pay or a pension, it may impact your benefits both in the short term and the long term.
  • Life issues such as childcare, travel issues, health problems and so forth may prevent you from actively seeking and accepting work which could also negatively impact your ability to draw benefits. 

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How do I file for FL unemployment benefits?  Where do I submit my claim?

Before you apply for Florida unemployment benefits, you will need to have the following information available to support your claim.  Florida unemployment application requirements include:

  • Social Security number
  • Contact information (names, addresses and phone numbers) for each of your employers for the past 18 months
  • The dates you worked for each employer for the past 18 months
  • The amount of wages you earned from each employer for the past 18 months
  • The amount of pre-tax wages you earned for the current week starting at 12:01 am on Sunday which starts your first week of filing a claim for unemployment
  • A driver’s license or some other form of proof of identity
  • The name and local number of your labor union hall if you are a member of a labor union
  • Your Alien Registration Number and work permit expiration date if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • A DD-214 if you were a member of the military within the past two years
  • Your SF-50 or SF-8 and check stubs or W2 proof of earnings if you were a federal employee
  • If you want your benefits deposited directly into your bank account, you will need a check or a deposit slip

To assure that you begin receiving benefits in a timely manner, you should start your claims process within one week after losing your job.  When your application is finished will determine when you will be able to start receiving benefits.  Claims always begin on the Sunday prior to the day you complete and submit your application. 

In Florida, all applications for unemployment benefits must be completed online.  The process takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete and must be finished within 72 hours of when you first start the application, or you will have to start over again.

What is the Florida unemployment website? Where is the Florida unemployment login? To file your claim you must login to the state’s CONNECT site for state unemployment benefits.  Once you are registered, you can return to the CONNECT site to locate "my Florida unemployment" for updates on your claim status and more.

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If you need help completing your application, or if you need access to a computer for online filing, you can go to any One-Stop Career Center for assistance.

It is critical that you submit information that is true and accurate.  Florida unemployment law states that if you do not, your benefits could be denied.  Even worse, if you are caught falsifying information, you could be prosecuted under Florida laws and face fines, possible jail time and disqualification from receiving future benefits.  These crimes are considered felonies and will invalidate your Florida unemployment eligibility.

After your claim is submitted, you will get a confirmation notice.  If you do not get a notice, you should contact the Claims Assistance Center at 1-800-204-2418.

When you receive your confirmation notice, you will also receive information on participating in an Initial Skills Review.  This examination provides a comprehensive inventory of your job strengths and weaknesses and is used by the One-Stop Career Center to assist claimants with their job search efforts.  It is mandatory for all applicants.

When will your unemployment claim be processed?  How many weeks can you receive benefit payments?

After your claim is filed and accepted, the state of Florida requires that you go through a “waiting week” during which no benefits will be paid to you.  Overall, it will take about three to four weeks for you to receive your first payment.  You can receive benefits for anywhere between 12 and 23 weeks depending on Florida’s current unemployment rate.

Benefits will vary for each claimant and will be based on earnings from your base period.  Your base period is based on the first four completed quarters within the past 18 months.

Florida Unemployment Claim Schedule

If your claim begins between these dates:Your base period will be:
January 1 through March 31October 1 through September 30
April 1 through June 30January 1 through December 31
July 1 through September 30April 1 through March 31
October 1 through December 31July 1 through June 30

More on Florida Unemployment Claim Weeks

Currently, the state of Florida pays unemployment benefits by dividing your wages in your highest base period quarter by 26, and the maximum benefit anyone can earn is $275 per week.

  1. You must have earned a minimum of $3,400 in the base period of your Florida unemployment claim and your highest quarter wages cannot be more than 1.5x of the entire base period wages. 
  2. If you are hired for a full-time job, your benefits will end.  But if you are hired for a part-time job, your benefits may still continue to some degree.  The amount of your wages will be used to offset the amount of unemployment benefits you receive. 
  3. If you earned $58 or more from part-time work, those wages will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount.  Tips, gratuities and self-employment income must be reported for the weeks in which they are earned.

To calculate the amount of your benefit, you can use this helpful Florida Unemployment Calculator.

On the Florida CONNECT site, you will need to claim your weeks of unemployment every two weeks that you are out of work.  Within 18 days of filing your claim, you will get an information notice with specific instructions.  You will have 14 days from your claim date to claim your weeks of unemployment benefits.  The disbursement of unemployment benefits is NOT automatic.  You must proactively claim your weeks to receive benefits within the allotted time frame.  If you are late, you could be denied your benefits.

When you claim your weeks, you will need to report any work you have done and any earnings, even if you have not been paid yet.

After you receive your first payment, your scheduled report date may change depending on the past four digits of your Social Security number as follows:

Last 4 digits of SSNDay of the Week
0000-1999Monday
2000-3999Tuesday
4000-6999Wednesday
7000-9999Thursday

Do I have to look for a job to get FL unemployment benefits?

Yes. In addition, you will have to report your job hunting efforts.  You must register with the Employ Florida Marketplace before claiming weeks of unemployment.  You are exempt from registering if:

  • You have a literacy or language impediment
  • You have a physical or mental impairment
  • You don’t currently live in Florida
  • You are on a temporary layoff that will not go longer than 8 weeks
  • You are a union member who regularly obtains work through a union hall
  • You are legally prohibited from using a computer

Florida Reemployment Services requires you to contact at least five employers a week to maintain your state of Florida unemployment benefits.  Be sure you keep records of which potential employers you contacted, the results of the contact, and the employer’s contact information.  In some instances, you can substitute meeting with a representative of the Once-Stop Career Center for meeting your minimum contact requirements. 

If you are offered a suitable job, but turn it down, you could lose your benefits.  In addition, when you go back to work, you must report that information to the Reemployment Assistance Program immediately. 

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When and how will I be paid my weekly unemployment?

Florida unemployment benefit recipients can receive benefits electronically through the use of a debit card.  These debit cards serve as an alternative method for your Florida unemployment compensation.  Payments are conveniently and automatically directly deposited into a personal debit card account.  Cards can then be used at any merchant or service that accepts debit cards, along with the option of receiving cash back from merchants or banks.

This means there is no time spent waiting for checks to come in the mail, funds can be accessed 24/7, less chance of mail theft or identity fraud, and your account is FDIC insured.  If you have questions about the Florida Visa Debit Card Program, call 1-888-898-3584.

Claimants can also choose to have their benefits direct deposited into their bank accounts as well. 

What if I am denied benefits? How can I appeal a denial of my claim?

You could be denied benefits for a variety of reasons, including not completing paperwork in a timely manner, not having enough wages during your base period, or being disqualified because you were fired from your last position due to misconduct, among many others.

If you are denied unemployment benefits, Florida allows you to file an online appeal, by mail, or by fax.  You will have 20 days to do so from the time you receive your determination notice.  After receiving your appeal, the agency will schedule a telephone hearing and an appeals referee will rule on your case.  A decision will then be mailed to you.

If you disagree with this decision, you can make an appeal to the Unemployment Appeals Commission, again within 20 days after your receive your notice.  Commissioners will review your information and issue another written decision.

If you disagree with the Commission’s findings, you can appeal that decision to the Florida District Court of Appeal. 

Unemployment Related Key Terms

As you read through this guide, you should know and understand what the following terms are:

Base period – a standard base period consists of the first four quarters beginning 18 months prior to your claim.  Calendar quarters run January through March, April through June, July through September, and October through December.  The amount of unemployment you can collect is based on wages earned in your base period.

Benefits – Biweekly payments made to people who qualify for unemployment are known as benefits.

Benefit week – Benefits are paid for calendar weeks of unemployment.  Benefit weeks start on Sunday at 12:01 am and end on Saturday.

Benefit year – The effective date of your first claim is the beginning of your benefit year and is usually the Sunday of the week that you file your first claim. 

Claimant – A person filing for unemployment benefits is known as a claimant.

Florida Unemployment Number - Telephone numbers for the state of Florida unemployment offices are listed below.

Initial Skills Review – A mandatory inventory that all claimants must complete that is used by the One-Stop Career Center to assist applicants in their job search efforts.

One-Stop Career Center – These centers are located throughout the state and provide comprehensive services for those seeking unemployment benefits, job search and reemployment services.

Reemployment Assistance Program – The State of Florida program that administers unemployment benefits, job search and reemployment services for Florida citizens.

Unemployment Compensation Program – This is the old name for the State of Florida’s agency that governs the disbursement of unemployment benefits, job search and reemployment services for Florida citizens.  The name was recently changed to the Reemployment Assistance Program, but some documents may still refer to the old name.

Waiting week – Florida’s qualifying period required by law in which benefits are not paid for the week.  It generally occurs during the first week you file your claim.

Click Here for our Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Filing Unemployment

For more information

For more information on Florida’s Reemployment Assistance Program, use the following contact information:

Online

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity 

One-Stop Career Center locations

Florida Unemployment Office

To locate a Florida unemployment office near you, use our helpful unemployment offices in Florida tool found here.  There are locations conveniently spread throughout the state.  Many unemployment claims and questions can be handled more easily in person at the unemployment office.

Florida Unemployment Phone Number

You can also file for Florida unemployment over the phone. The following are the primary Florida unemployment phone numbers. Call these programs to get help filing a your Florida unemployment claim.

Department of Economic Opportunity:  1-850-245-7105
Reemployment Assistance Program Main Help Line:  1-800-204-2418
Benefits Appeals Assistance:  1-800-204-2418

By mail:

Department of Economic Opportunity
107 East Madison Street
Caldwell Building
Tallahassee, FL  32399-4120

Florida Unemployment Rate

The state of Florida unemployment rate sits at 4.5% based on April 2017 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This is slightly higher than the US unemployment rate nationwide, which sits at 4.3% based on the most recent statistics.

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